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Regional and national companies provide desktop environmental-due-diligence reports. Most offer historical and current government-records-check information.
In a typical government-records-check report, the target property is plotted on a map, and the hazards or areas of concern are plotted around it. The report also contains supporting data from federal, state and local government sources. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue federal guidelines for the conduct of environmental site assessments late this year.
Historical products require reports such as aerial-photo packages, which depict land-use changes over time, and fire-insurance maps, which show building construction, building names and more.City directories, title searches and other historical reports also are available at the click of a mouse.
As technologies have improved, so have data providers’ products. Mapping is sophisticated; geocoding, or site-plotting, is more accurate.
“The biggest advantages to these screens are speed and cost, and being able to better meet our customers’ closing dates with faster and better answers,” says Kenneth Penny, vice president of a Florida savings and loan, who also uses desktop-due-diligence tools
Penny also says that a limitation of due-diligence reports is that they don’t allow him the opportunity to speak with someone who knows a particular property if an issue arises. That’s the time to bring in a qualified environmental consultant.
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Lenders should request a government-records check and a historical-research package to cover all bases, and they should make sure the government records are searched for the property’s surrounding area as well as the property itself. Historical reports, considered the most critical component of a site assessment, are important; you never know if that seemingly benign ice cream parlor was once the home of an auto-repair shop.
Many properties’ contamination statuses could have been revealed through adequate current and historical research. It’s time to look into desktop due diligence.
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